Parental abduction and return of a child under the Hague Convention

Parental conflicts very often directly affect the parties’ minor children. After the separation the parents, although initially they agreed on the conditions of child custody and issues related to the child’s place of residence, after some time they cease to abide by them. What if, despite a foreign judgment determining the issues related to minors, one of the parents takes the child to Poland and unlawfully detains it? In such a situation we undoubtedly have to do with so-called parental abduction.

In recent months our law firm has been dealing with a case related to parental abduction and the return of a child under the Hague Convention. The minor's parents initially lived together in Sweden. Unfortunately, their relationship did not work out and they decided to separate. The parents entered into an agreement on joint custody of the child, with details on the exercise of custody, and the establishment of the minor's place of residence in Sweden, which was accepted by the Swedish court. The girl, as agreed, came to Poland for holidays, but due to the actions taken by her mother never returned to Sweden. It should be noted that the mother committed parental abduction. In order to recover the child, the father applied to the Polish courts simultaneously for a declaration of enforceability of the decision of the Foreign Court in Poland, and for the return of the child on the basis of the provisions of the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction drawn up in The Hague on 25 October 1980.

The first case was heard by the District Court in Olsztyn under case number VI Co 27/21. The case was heard on the basis of the provisions of Council Regulation (EC) No. 2201/2003 of 27 November 2003 concerning jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement in matrimonial matters and the matters of parental responsibility, repealing Regulation (EC) No. 1347/2000. Based on these provisions the District Court in Olsztyn declared the judgment of the District Court in Sweden enforceable.

At the same time the second case was examined by the Regional Court in Białystok. On the basis of the evidence collected in the case, it was concluded that the mother's conduct met the criteria set forth in Article 3 of the Hague Convention, indicating that the girl was unlawfully detained in Poland. The court emphasized that in accordance with the agreement concluded by the parties the minor's place of residence was to be Sweden, and the decision was final at the moment of the child's detention. The whole material collected in the case led the Court to conclude that the minor had been abducted and unlawfully detained by her mother, and therefore the application for ordering the return of the child to her permanent place of residence was granted in its entirety – ref. no. I Ns 134/21.

In conclusion, it should be noted that parental abductions occur more and more frequently. Of course, it is influenced not only by the parents' inability to communicate and the growing conflicts between them, but also by the issues of globalization, which affect marriages or unions between people coming from different parts of the world, which creates problems in the situation of taking care of a common child after separation.